To the Person Who Laughed at My Daughter With Down Syndrome
I had someone laugh at my daughter, Lily, on social media for the first time. I wasn’t expecting it, and it shocked and sickened me. I sat there looking at my Instagram page and saw those seemingly innocent letters: “lmfao.” I peeked at the user pic and wanted to vomit. I knew once I clicked on the profile I’d be upset, but I did it anyway just to confirm my suspicions. The entire feed was horrible, awful pictures making fun of people with disabilities, and I felt a little like my innocence had been shattered.
We live in a bubble where everyone we know loves Lily, and we had yet to experience anyone being anything except kind, loving and supportive. And now there was this person laughing at my child – my child who has worked so hard and overcome so much and still spends all of her days smiling and giggling. So, because it’s the Internet and I was angry, I typed a quick, angry response and blocked them. For a moment I was happy, but it was fleeting when I realized I didn’t fix anything. I didn’t do anything except react angrily, and that’s not the type of parent I want to be. Because sadly, this will probably happen again. While we live in our bubble and try only to let good, kind people into it, the world sometimes has other plans.
There will be other people who sneak in: people who will say things without realizing the hurt or the harm they cause, or people who do realize and don’t care. I want to be the person who stays calm and tries to use that moment not only to remind Lily of how incredible and amazing and loved she is, but to show the rest of the world that as well. So, this time I’m a little too late, but next time I will get it right. Today, though, I can only say what I wish I had:
Dear Sir (or Ma’am – I don’t want to make assumptions here),
The photo you took the time to look at and laugh at today is of my daughter, Lily. I’m sorry you weren’t able to look past your own prejudice and see the incredible kid in that picture, because let me assure you, she is incredible. I wish you would’ve had more opportunities in your life to get to know people with disabilities, because perhaps then you’d already understand they are, beyond anything else, people. My daughter is probably no different than you were as a child: she loves music, giggles when I pretend to fall down and hates it when we make her eat green beans.
But maybe she is a bit different: she’s had to work a little harder to be able to do those things, but frankly I think that makes her more like a superhero than a regular kid. Because really, think about it, is there anything that you have spent three years trying to learn, or did you give up when it got hard? Lily doesn’t give up.
Maybe your perception isn’t entirely your own fault. Maybe it’s how you were raised, or your friends are the type of people who think it’s funny to laugh at something different. I honestly believe you’re not a bad person. Maybe if we met in a different way, in a different time and a different place, we’d even be friends. I don’t think someone making fun of people with disabilities is inherently mean-spirited. It’s possible they haven’t had the chance to think otherwise. I really, truly believe that if you had the opportunity to get to know my daughter, you’d walk away thinking she’s pretty awesome. I think you’d begin to look past her almond-shaped eyes and the fact that she’s only learning to stand up, and you’d see her incredible smile and hear her giggle, and everything I’m saying to you would sink in.
I think you’d finally understand why your words and laughter were so hurtful, and you’d feel ashamed because you’re generally not a hurtful person. And while that would, honestly, be somewhat satisfying for me to see, I hope it would be just enough for you to see things a little differently. Because, like I’ve been trying to say to you all along, different isn’t bad – it’s incredible.
Follow this journey on Giggle and Hugs.
The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.